@Pontifex on Your Right to a Decent Job

Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis
Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis and Pope Francis
Today Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Here’s what he said:

“… The State of social rights must not be dismantled, and in particular the right to work must be protected. This must not be considered a variable, dependent upon financial and monetary markets. It is a fundamental right for dignity, for the formation of a family, for the realisation of the common good and for peace.

Education and work and access to welfare for all are key elements both for development and for the just distribution of goods, for achieving social justice and for belonging to society, and for participating freely and responsibly in political life, understood as the management of the “res publica.”

Ideas that claim to increase income at the cost of restricting the job market and creating further exclusion are not coherent with an economy at the service of man and the common good, or with an inclusive and participatory democracy”.–Pope Francis 

Read the whole statement here: To Justice and Peace: rising inequality and poverty endanger democracy (Oct. 2, 2014)

Joan Chittister: Bless the Work of Our Hands

photo by Ben Curtis
photo by Ben Curtis

“A spirituality of work is based on a heightened sense of sacramentality, of the idea that everything that is, is holy and that our hands consecrate it to the service of God. When we grow radishes in a small container in a city apartment, we participate in creation. We sustain the globe. When we repair what has been broken or paint what is old or give away what we have earned that is above and beyond our own sustenance, we stoop and scoop up the earth and breath into it new life. When we wrap garbage and recycle cans, when we clean a room, when we care for everything we touch and touch it reverently, we become the creators of a new universe. Then we sanctify our work and our work sanctifies us.

A spirituality of work draws us out of ourselves and, at the same time, makes us more of what we are meant to be. My work develops myself. I become what I practice all my life. “Excellence,” Samuel Johnson wrote, “can only be attained by the labor of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price.”

My work also develops everything around it. There is nothing I do that does not affect the world in which I live. In developing a spirituality of work, I learn to trust beyond reason that good work will gain good things for the world, even when I don’t expect them and I can’t see them. In that way, I gain myself. Literally. I come into possession of a me that is worthwhile, whose life has not been in vain, who has been a valuable member of the human race.

Finally, a spirituality of work immerses me in the search for human community. I begin to see that everything I do, everything, has some effect on someone somewhere. I begin to see my life tied up in theirs. I begin to see that the starving starve because someone is not working hard enough to feed them. And so I do. It becomes obvious, then, that the poor are poor because someone is not intent on the just distribution of the goods of the earth. And so I am. I begin to realize that work is the lifelong process of personal sanctification that is satisfied only by saving the globe for others and saving others for the globe. I finally come to know that my work is God’s work, unfinished by God because God meant it to be finished by me.”–Joan Chittister, OSB

Excerpt from For Everything a Season by Joan Chittister (Orbis)

Video: Desert Monks on Balancing a Strong Work Ethic with Inner Peace

In the 1990s I was able to visit Christ in the Desert Monastery near Abiquiu, New Mexico. Though my time there as a guest was too short, the visit expanded by gaze of the spiritual landscape. The lives of the monks there connected me more deeply with the early Desert Mothers and Fathers. Walking the rough lumenaria-lit trail to the chapel at 3 a.m. under a diamond-studded velvet desert sky was a conversion experience.

Possibly most profound was for the first time in my life I experienced a community of men where I felt completely safe and cared for. Women around the world live in constant fear and rarely have the joys of walking at night alone. At Christ in the Desert I experienced the best of the masculine spirit in service to God.

Lent seems a good time to go back to the desert.

Anglican Bishop Mark Ryland: ‘Workaholism is Not a Christian Virtue’

The Anglican Bishop of Shrewsbury, UK, has warned against growing workaholism, and has commended relaxation and hospitality instead. In his regular diocesan update, Bishop Mark Ryland lays out the necessity for sabbath, rest, and renewal.

By way of information: The U.S. does not have “national holidays” like they do in the European Union – in the sense of days on which all employees in receive a day free from work and all business is halted. The U.S. federal holidays are technically apply only to federal employees. States and local jurisdictions decide how they will follow them. And private businesses don’t have to follow them at all. Ryland writes:

I wonder if we British don’t really value rest and relaxation? We seem to make a virtue out of unceasing work; we boast about how busy we are, as if the hectic pace of our lives is proof that we are important and significant. We feel guilty when we’re not working and we’re suspicious of anyone who lifts their nose from the grindstone for too long. In France, the whole country basically shuts down for the month of August and everyone heads for the beach or the mountains. While the number of public holidays in Britain is eight; on the continent it’s ten or eleven. Despite working more hours, it is debatable whether our country is any more productive. Indeed, Britain has one of the highest records for workdays lost due to sickness in Europe.

In our fast paced world, tales of emotional exhaustion and spiritual bankruptcy are not uncommon and stress is a recognised illness. People feel stretched and overloaded – indeed it is expected of them! I noticed a recent advert on TV that promised to keep you looking fresh, even after sixteen hours. It seemed to be applauding those ‘tough people’ who worked sixteen hour days. Crazy!

We were not, however, designed to be forever on the go. Fast paced lifestyles and little sleep rob us not only of energy but also of relationships. This seems to be a particular danger in the Church where it is all too easy for work and ministry to become the other woman or man in a marriage. We rob ourselves, however, when we desire autonomy or when we imagine we are indispensable, declaring that we can manage alone, that we don’t need anyone or anything else to help us. As Charles de Gaulle once said: ‘the graveyards are full of indispensable men’.

Jesus may have worked long hours teaching and healing but he knew that he needed to draw aside, to step out of the rush and away from the demands laid upon him. He knew of his need to find peace and to reconnect with his Father, gaining spiritual energy and sustenance in solitude. Exhaustion is a fact of life. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that even young people grow tired and become weary. He tells us that the remedy for weariness is rest, waiting on God, waiting to be filled with his strength. So if the prophets recognised the need for spiritual refuelling and Jesus prioritised time alone with his father, how much more do we need it?

We need to relearn this… I need to relearn this! More than that the world needs us God’s people – his Church – to model a healthy rhythm of work and rest for we live in a world that is a long way out of balance. In our society, young and old seek oblivion in alcohol; anti-depressants are amongst the most prescribed medications. People are yearning for real rest as the lie of consumerisms’ ability to satisfy in any meaningful way is being exposed. This deep recession gives us an opportunity and a choice. It could mean that we go on blindly working harder and harder to obtain the things we have grown used to possessing; or it could mean a time to take stock and count our blessings for what we enjoy – what Archbishop David Hope called an opportunity to model a lifestyle of ‘enoughness’.

If you’re like me, it will be an evening fishing on the river; if you’re like the Archdeacon of Salop, it will be playing with your model railway in the attic: a walk in the park; reading a good book; playing games with your children and grand-children, listening to the radio, visiting neighbours and friends – there are so many simple and inexpensive ways to discover re-creation.

As a creator of community, the church is called to model the true worth of human beings as men and women made in the image of God. Making room for the marginalised and the newcomer, providing opportunities for people to meet, relax, play together and strengthen friendships, is a wonderful way to help people belong and feel cherished. In these simple acts we proclaim good news to our neighbours: ‘you have great worth, regardless of how much or how little you accomplish. You have value because God is your Father and, in Christ, you are loved as his very own.’ –Bishop Mark Ryland

Dublin: How to Pray When You Have a Desk Job

At Trinity University in Dublin, along with the Book of Kells, there were other medieval manuscripts on display. The Book of Armagh, the Book of Darrow, and (one of my favorites) the Book of Mulling were all there to ooh and aww over.

Illumination of St. John from the Book of Mulling

It is perversely comforting to find the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages wrestling over the same issues we wrestle over today. In particular, how to pray when you have a desk job.

One display case held a copy of a sermon preached at the Durham Cathedral in England sometime in the 1100s. I was really touched by the details and the craft.

Medieval Allegory of the Scribes Tools

The parchment on which we write is pure conscience;
the knife that scrapes it is the fear of God;
the pumice that smooths the skin is the discipline of heavenly desire;
the chalk that whitens it signifies an unbroken meditation of holy thoughts;
the ruler is the will of God;
the straight-edge is devotion to the holy task;
the quill, its end split in two for writing, is the love of God and of our neighbor;
the ink is humility itself;
the illuminator’s colors represent the multiform grace of heavenly wisdom;
the writing desk is tranquility of heart;
the exemplar from which a copy is made is the life of Christ;
the writing place is contempt of worldly things lifting us to a desire for heaven.

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